Travels with V
Guatemala, Belize, Mexico
In a deserted mega city
It’s finally time for us to enter Tikal. The mayan mega city that once was the greatest and largest in this part of the world. It was founded a couple of hundred years BC and was abandoned a thousand years AD in the mysterious social collapse that affected all maya cities at this time. No one knows why, but probably there was a supply crisis and a period of climate change that forced the people to abandon the cities and seek their food and fortune in the jungle. And this happened hundreds of years before the Spanish conquistadors arrived.
Tikal was first and foremost a religious centre. It covered a vast area, more than 16 square kilometers, and it is believed that more than 200 000 people lived here in its glory days. The temples were built all over the place by kings who wanted grand platforms where they could receive the people’s worship. The pyramids are constructed with limestones glued together with a kind of lime cement.
Below each tempel is a plaza, often with standings stones depicting the king clad in jaguar furs and a fancy headpiece. On some stones a tied-up man lies at the king’s feet, this means people, maybe captured in war, are being sacrificed.
We rise very early one morning and walk through the still dark forest with flashlights. Nasty tree roots cross the path threatening to make us trip. Still in the darkness we reach a serie of stairs that we climb, still yawning. This take us almost to the top of Templo 4, where we sit down on the top steps and wait in silence for the sun to rise. And for the jungle to wake up.
Suddenly orange stripes flash across the sky, steam rises from the trees and ghostly howls are heard from all around. The howler monkeys are awake.
Our lodge lies right by the entrance to the Tikal park, and it’s a place where many wild animals come to find food. We spot spider monkeys, coatis, agouti (a type of capybara), colourful ocellated turkeys and tucans in the lodge grounds.
A funny and furry animal, the coati, runs around in gangs, sometimes quite large, searching for food. They don’t seem to be afraid of us at all, in fact they just ignore us, totally concentrated on their food hunt.
At this time all our clothes are wet with jungle moist, even the ones in our backpacks. And we long for a climate where they, and we, can dry in the sunshine by a sandy beach. And sure enough, just that is waiting for us around the corner, so join us now in a jump into paradise!